How Eastern Exposure Can Affect Paint Colours
I’ve received MANY questions from readers wondering which paint colours were best for their east and west-facing rooms. The main comment being ‘there seems to be a lot of info out there fir north and south-facing rooms, but nothing for east and west-facing rooms!’
Do you want to know why? Because they are a total and complete bugger. I curse them and throw a quarter in the jar every time (it’s full now).
And let me tell you, there IS info out there – but it’s just so friggin’ contradictory! SOME articles state that east-facing light is cool-blue, OTHERS state that it is gray-green and yet MORE say it is warm-yellow! SERIOUSLY people (no wonder y’all are so confused!).
So, I have strapped on my big girl panties and pulled ALL of this info together for you, combining it with my 15 years of colour experience and finally made some freakin’ SENSE of it all. However, it’s a lot of info, so today we’re focusing on EAST facing rooms (west will come later on a broomstick).
Now, if you don’t want the who, what, when where, why and HOW, just skip down to where it says ‘Step 1’. However, I highly recommend you soak in some of these tidbits first as they will UNDOUBTEDLY help you in your colour-inspired journey!
East Facing Light and How it Can Affect Paint Colours
East-facing morning light
These rooms get a nice soft, clean dose of sunshine in the morning, but as the sun rises you will also notice a lot of shadows.
The morning sunlight is bright, clear and not particularly WARM, but also not cold or grayed-out like north-facing rooms. It’s more of a softness. This can slightly enhance cool paint colours and will sit relatively neutral with warm colours.
As we move towards noon, the light will slowly get brighter and whiter and the chances of being judged for day-drinking (which you may be doing shortly) will be greatly reduced. This bright light can start to wash colours out and lighten the look of them.
For example, in the above photo, check out the walls facing you, they are a bit shadowed, but the wall with the TP holder is getting lighter and quite washed-out in comparison as it’s getting a direct hit of eastern light.
East-facing light at noon
Once we hit noon, the room will be pretty bright without much warmth and will start the downward slide toward a more shaded, cooler look. And I don’t mean ‘shade’ as in shadows, but shade as in ‘gray’ and flat. Cool colours can do okay at this time of the day, but warm colours can offer some balance and warmth.
East-facing afternoon light
In the afternoon, an east-facing room will look progressively grayer and slightly cooler, with fewer shadows (all of the room is slightly shadowed as a whole) – I can hear the crickets chirping now, oh wait, that’s my phone with a message – which I’ll never check.
Cool colours in eastern afternoon light can feel a bit chilly and flat if they have too much gray in them. Warm colours can help to balance out the gray-flat light.
So, what is a girl (or guy) to do now? DRINK UP BUTTERCUP! That’s right, you might need to call in the reinforcements (Mr. Pinot and Ms. Merlot) when it comes to choosing the best paint colour for your east-facing room. So, grab that sippy cup and let’s get started.
This is where the fun starts!
Step 1: It’s all in the timing
Before you even LOOK at paint colours, you need to determine how much time you spend in this room.
If you spend most of your time in the morning, you’ll want to pick the colour that you like the BEST in the morning light.
If you spend most of your time in this room in the afternoon, you will want to pick the colour that you like the best in the AFTERNOON light.
Does this mean you completely ignore the other half of the day? No. You just don’t give it priority. And while you may LOVE a colour in the morning light, but not the afternoon, as long as it’s ‘okay’ and doesn’t go against your religious beliefs then it might just be a good choice.
‘But what if I’m in the room in the morning AND the afternoon?’
Well, then we move on to step 2.
Step 2: Lighting is your friend
For the time of day when your room is at it’s darkest and most shaded, use interior lighting as a supplement. This can put an ENTIRELY new face on your paint colour and make it more liveable during the shaded hours. PLEASE take the time to improve the lighting in your room as this will make ALL of the difference in the world – read tips on how to do that here.
While they say that ‘daylight’ bulbs best mimic the natural daylight, I find that they really only mimic the sunlight at its peak – so at its whitest. This isn’t always a ‘liveable light’ for what we’re used to with our old-school bulbs. I would opt for a slightly warmer light over a daylight bulb in a shaded space.
So, those are the basics. Now, let’s talk about colour.
When I’ve talked about the best paint colours for north and south-facing rooms, it’s been easy to peg down some good colour options as the light is a bit more predictable throughout the day. However, with east-facing rooms having split-personalities, it isn’t so clear-cut and there IS no exact recipe. HOWEVER, there are some pretty good tips that I’ve come up with.
If you use your room mostly in the morning hours
Bless your heart. If I could get up every day at noon, I would.
Warm paint colours
Won’t be overly enhanced nor will they be shaded out, they will just be pretty and warm!
Cool paint colours
Can be slightly enhanced by the light coming in, but not drastically.
Neutral paint colours
Cool neutrals with cool undertones will be slightly glorified in the morning hours. Warm neutrals with warm undertones will do what they do and just be warm.
ALL of the above will start looking washed-out as you get closer to noon if you get good sunlight on your walls.
Tips and Ideas
- If you choose colours that have a wink more ‘colour’ in them and less gray, you may find that the increased colour helps fight off the shaded look of the afternoon light, while still looking beautiful in the morning hours
- You might find that blues with a touch of green in them feel a bit softer and more inviting
- Greens that have a wink of yellow vs a wink of blue can warm things up more again
- Purples that lean slightly to the pink side rather than the blue (cool) side can help balance things off a bit if you are worried about the gray afternoon light
This is just an approximation – it ain’t gospel…but it’s close (wink wink)
If you use your room mostly in the afternoon
The afternoon light can be DRASTICALLY different from morning light.
Warm paint colours
Warm colours can help balance out the more shaded, slightly cooler look of east-facing afternoon light.
Cool paint colours
Might be a bit more subdued and grayed out and can come across even cooler-toned than normal.
Neutral paint colours
Will all be shaded and toned down.
Tips and Ideas
- You may want to use colours that a) are a bit warmer and less neutral. It’s okay to have a beige base, but if you have some good ‘colour’ mixed in, it will help to fight off the flatness of the afternoon light
- If you choose a cool colour that has a bit more ‘colour’ in it and less gray, you may find that it holds itself a bit better in the afternoon
- If you go for cool paint colours or gray neutrals, you may want to add warm accents and texture to your room to add some balance and visual warmth.
- I’ve found that my clients are often able to live with paint colours that make a room feel a bit too warm vs paint colours that make a room feel a bit too cold, something to consider if you use your east-facing room in the afternoon
I know that’s a TON of info – it’s like verbal diarrhoea on my end, so I can’t imagine how it’s being received on yours. So, you can take that all into consideration OR take a deep breath, totally ignore me (Tim has an uncanny knack for this) and just read the summary of things below, along with the best paint colour options…
But before you do that, take a quick second to answer these two questions…
- Do I use my room more in the morning or in the afternoon?
- Am I more comfortable in warmer colours or cooler colours?
Warm Paint Colour Ideas for East Facing Rooms (incl: NE and SE)
These colours are ‘reasonably’ flexible and are best for the following:
- East facing rooms that are used the most in the afternoon
- East facing rooms that also have northern exposure (and can be okay for south-east as well! )
- Rooms that you use at ALL times of day OR if you can’t STAND cool colours
Clockwise from top left
Benjamin Moore Powell Buff HC-35
Powell Buff sits nicely in-between being a ‘colour’ and a ‘neutral’. It has a beige base with a solid golden (orange-yellow) colour that comes up. It will neutralize that bit more in the afternoon, but still, hold some warmth. Once in a BLUE moon, it flashes a wee wink o’ green, but don’t expect it.
Benjamin Moore Pale Avocado 2146-40
Okay, this IS a cool-ISH colour as it’s a green, however, I added a lot of yellow to it, which makes Pale Avocado seem more like a warm colour.
Sherwin Williams Vanillin SW-6371
Vanillin is a creamy colour. Cream is a yellow base colour and this one has just a touch more yellow than the average neutral cream, while still having a soft grounded base.
Benjamin Moore French Toast CC-244
French Toast is another golden type of colour that has a good degree of yellow and orange mixed with a beige base. Powell Buff will seem considerably more neutral in comparison!
Benjamin Moore Hepplewhite Ivory HC-36
Hepplewhite Ivory is along the same lines as Vanillin, but with a bit more colour/yellow in it.
Benjamin Moore Cinnamon 2174-20
Cinnamon is a gorgeous rust tone that has a nice orange backdrop which saves it from falling red-burgundy as some rust colours can.
Read more: The 5 Best Warm Neutral Paint Colours
Let’s take a quick break to talk about paint samples…
Undoubtedly, you’ll be heading out in the near future to grab paint samples – stop right there! I want you to check out SAMPLIZE. Samplize offers peel and stick paint samples that are more AFFORDABLE, EASIER and more ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY than traditional paint pots. Here are just a FEW reasons why I recommend Samplize to my clients…
- Samples arrive ON YOUR DOORSTEP in 1-3 business days, depending on location
- At $6.99, they’re more affordable than the samples pots/rollers/foam boards that are needing for traditional paint sampling
- If you keep the samples on their white paper, you can move them around the room
Visit the SAMPLIZE website HERE
Cool Paint Colour Ideas for East Facing Rooms (incl. SE as well)
These colours are ‘reasonably flexible and are best for the following:
- East facing rooms that are used the most in the morning as the colours will be slightly enhanced
- East facing rooms that also have south-facing windows/light
- Rooms that you use at ALL times of day OR if you can’t stand warm colours
Clockwise starting in the top left
Sherwin Williams Rainwashed SW-6211
Rainwashed is a beautiful blue-green-gray blend. And while it will gray-blue itself out a bit in the afternoon, it will still be a beautiful colour with the right interior lighting.
Benjamin Moore Wythe Blue HC-143
Wythe Blue is another blue-green-gray blend, but it’s more in the light-medium range, with more depth than Rainwashed. This means that it could fight off a gray afternoon light a bit better.
Learn about more beautiful blue/green paint colours in 8 of the Best Blue/Green Paint Colours.
Benjamin Moore Gray Wisp 1570
Gray Wisp is on the border of ‘colour and neutral’ when it comes to east-facing rooms. In the morning the green-blue of it will be soft and soothing. In the afternoon the gray in it will come up a bit more but can be shifted with the right interior lighting plan.
Benjamin Moore Fernwood Green 2145-40
Fernwood Green is just a PRETTY green with a country vibe. It has a subtle warmth that holds itself well in the afternoon light.
See more of Fernwood Green in the master bedroom of this beautiful country home.
Benjamin Moore Caribbean Teal 2123-20
I am a BIG fan of Caribbean Teal. It’s a medium-toned mix of blue-green with a touch of gray to calm it down. It adds richness and warmth to a room just via its depth.
Sherwin Williams Grassland SW-6163
Grassland is a soft, slightly warm green with its greige base (gray-beige).
The above ideas cover the slightly more colourful end of things – without going too far one way or another. Now, for those of you who are so inclined…
The Best Neutral Paint Colours for an East-Facing Room
Not everyone wants colour, and I find that MOST of my E-Design clients want neutrals on their walls – regardless of their exposures. Which brings me to another question that I’m often asked…
‘Do I HAVE to paint my east or west-facing room a colour? Can’t I paint it gray, beige or gray?’
Of course you can, you can do whatever the heck ya want! Just keep in mind, the more neutral your paint colour is (the less ‘colour’ it has in it and the more beige-gray it looks) the drabber it might look at the ‘shaded’ time of day.
I recommend looking for neutrals that have at least a WEEEE willy wink (super technical term) of colour in them to off-set those shadows a bit. You’ll also want to make sure that your interior lighting is sufficient to help balance those gray shades off a bit.
Clockwise starting at the top left
Sherwin Williams Light French Gray SW 0055
Light French Gray is a soft, slightly fresh gray with a very vague purple undertone. As far as grays go, I like it for east-facing rooms as it doesn’t go as muddy as some other gray and greige paint colours can.
Sherwin Williams Techno Gray SW 6170
Techno Gray is a nice greige base colour with a reasonably warm green undertone.
Benjamin Moore Gentle Cream OC-96
I’ve always been a Gentle Cream fan. It’s a soft creamy colour (which means there’s yellow in it) but there’s also a bit of orange, all wrapped up in a calm warm beige base.
Benjamin Moore Paris Rain 1501
Sherwin Williams Creamy SW 7012
Creamy is one of the only off-whites that I would turn to for an east-facing room…and it’s borderline. Creamy is a light cream colour (so there’s yellow in it) that is balanced with a neutral base to calm it right down. It will neutralize considerably in the afternoon.
Sherwin Williams Macadamia SW 6142
Macadamia is similar to Benjamin Moore Lenox Tan (which was in the running as well). These are more golden, light-medium beige colours. They have a decent orange undertone with a wink of yellow in there as well. (Don’t let those words scare you, if it’s a warm colour, it will have yellow, orange or red in it – it’s a matter of finding the blend you like!)
Benjamin Moore Collingwood OC-28
Collingwood is a gorgeous warm gray paint colour with a soft purple undertone. You will need good interior lighting to bring it to life in the afternoon!
Do you have a southeast, east-west or northeast facing room?
While it might seem confusing, having dual exposures isn’t that bad when you’re armed with the right info! Check out this blog post on how to pick paint colours when you have 2 exposures.
Interior Furnishings and OTHER Considerations
Oh, you don’t get off that easy – there’s a whole ‘NOTHER side to choosing the best colour for your room – your interior finishings.
The interior of your room adds a whole DIFFERENT set of rules, but there is only SO much I can do with a blog post! If you don’t know which paint colour is best with your exposure, countertops, flooring, furniture, personal tastes, etc… you might want to check out my E-Design.
E-Design and Online Colour Consulting – 4000+ happy clients can’t be wrong!
Written in 2017, updated in 2019